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CNN NEWSROOM

India's COVID Crisis; Interview With Fmr. Rep. Denver Riggleman (R-VA); Republican Civil War?; Funeral Held For Andrew Brown Jr. Aired 2-2:30p ET

Aired May 3, 2021 - 14:00   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.


[14:00:02]

ANA CABRERA, CNN HOST: Priscilla Alvarez, thank you for your ongoing reporting on all of those issues around immigration.

And thank you all at home for joining me. I will see you back here tomorrow at 1:00 Eastern. You can follow me on Twitter @AnaCabrera.

For now, NEWSROOM continues with Alisyn and Victor.

VICTOR BLACKWELL, CNN HOST: Hello. I'm Victor Blackwell.

ALISYN CAMEROTA, CNN HOST: And I'm Alisyn Camerota.

Let's begin in North Carolina, where the family of Andrew Brown Jr. is saying their final goodbyes. But his funeral does not bring closure. They still do not know what happened in the moments before sheriff's deputies shot and killed Brown while trying to execute that warrant 12 days ago.

BLACKWELL: The Reverend William Barber there on the stage there at his funeral.

The district attorney says that Brown was driving at deputies, that his car also made physical contact, but Brown's family disputes that. And the body camera footage that might help answer this has not been released.

Only two members of the Brown family has been allowed to see just a 20-second snippet of that footage.

CAMEROTA: Andrew Brown Jr. was 42 years old. He was a father and a grandfather. One of his sons described their relationship.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JHA'ROD FEREBEE, SON OF ANDREW BROWN JR.: Me and my dad, we was like best friends. You know, every time you seen him, you seen me. You seen me you seen him.

We couldn't stay way from each other. I remember, growing up, couldn't nobody tell me nothing wrong with my daddy. You say anything wrong, I'm ready to go to war with you. I'm talking 4 years old, 5 years old, 6 years old.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BLACKWELL: CNN's Natasha Chen is outside the church in Elizabeth City where the funeral is happening now. And she's with us.

Natasha, there are some very passionate calls to release the body camera. We're hearing that at the service. Tell us what you have heard so far.

NATASHA CHEN, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes, so we have been hearing from members of the clergy, from the family attorneys, all talking about the fact that they are laying Andrew Brown to rest right now, but there is no rest as far as their work is concerned.

There is still no transparency for them as far as seeing exactly what happened on Wednesday, April 21, when sheriff's deputies said that they were trying to execute a search warrant.

Benjamin Crump, one of the family attorneys spoke about this, saying that they have to now continue on the legacy of Andrew Brown.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BENJAMIN CRUMP, ATTORNEY FOR FAMILY OF ANDREW BROWN JR.: Because Andrew cannot make the plea for his constitutional rights, it is up to us to make the plea for his constitutional rights.

And because, district attorney Womble, Andrew cannot make the plea for transparency, it is up to us to make the plea for transparency and demand that these videotapes be released!

(END VIDEO CLIP)

CHEN: Crump also mentioned the special guests in attendance today. They include the families of George Floyd, of Daunte Wright, of Eric Garner.

He was talking about how this is, unfortunately, a growing fraternity. And he, alongside other speakers today, have said that the work continues, the need continues to fix this issue, to have Congress and the Senate address this.

And the people in attendance are ready to continue marching peacefully through Elizabeth City, as they have consecutively for the past 12 days, even after this service later this afternoon -- Alisyn.

CAMEROTA: Natasha Chen, thank you very much.

BLACKWELL: Let's turn now to Washington and the deepening Republican divide, also a new statement from the man at the center of it, the former President Donald Trump.

He's attempting to rebrand his consistent, let's call it a fantasy that he won the 2020 election.

He wrote this: "The fraudulent presidential election of 2020 will be from this day forth be known as the big lie."

CAMEROTA: That is a glaring example of Orwellian doublespeak.

And soon after that statement, one of the former president's biggest Republican critics, Congressman Liz Cheney, sent this tweet -- quote -- "The 2020 presidential election was not stolen. Anyone who claims it was is spreading the big lie, turning their back on the rule of law and poisoning our democratic system."

Cheney sending out that tweet despite the fact that she is facing major criticism from within her own party. A senior House Republican tells CNN that Cheney may not survive the month in her leadership role.

Let's bring in CNN chief congressional correspondent Manu Raju, he's on Capitol Hill.

So, Manu, let's start there.

The Republicans, as we all remember, in, I think, February tried to vote Cheney out of her post. They failed. Why do they think, this time around, it would work?

[14:05:02]

MANU RAJU, CNN SENIOR CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, what I'm hearing from a number of Republicans is, the opposition to her is growing.

Now, will they actually succeed in pushing her out of the position? That is still another question. Ultimately, if there is a vote, it will be a secret ballot vote, just like we saw in February. She won that easily. But, this time, things are different.

Frustration has been growing about her criticism of Donald Trump. Particularly, that came out during the Republican retreat from last week. Some Republicans contended her comments were a distraction, as the party was trying to unify. She was responding to reporters' questions at the time.

But also a keep point here, that Kevin McCarthy, the House Republican leader, has not offered any defense of her whatsoever. That was different than February. While he was mum talking about her going into that closed-door conference meeting, he ultimately came to her defense and gave her -- a speech in her defense that a number of Republicans came out and said it was a rousing speech, helped unify the conference in a lot of ways.

But he's not giving any indication he will do that again. And under the rules of the House Republican Conference, he can call an election almost immediately. The next time they meet is next week. Will he do so then? It is possible.

And you're hearing concerns from different quarters of the Republican Party. I talked to one McCarthy ally, Jim Banks. He chairs an influential caucus called the Republican Study Committee within the larger House Republican Conference.

And he told me: "I would like to see my friend Liz join the focus and share the mission to regain the majority. She seems very, very focused on the past and tearing down other Republicans like myself," his criticism stemming apart from her going after what was his proposal about how the Republicans could regain the majority.

But, nevertheless, you're seeing this tension really build within the conference. Can she survive this, can she make it past this month, an open question, but a lot of questions coming. All this is being directed at the Republican leader himself, Kevin McCarthy. And will he stand by his number three in his leadership team?

(CROSSTALK)

BLACKWELL: All right, let's answer that now. Manu Raju on Capitol Hill for us, thank you.

Let's bring in former Republican Congressman Denver Riggleman.

Congressman, good to have you.

Let's start with Representative Cheney.

As Manu mentioned there, she survived, and more than survived. I mean, the vote was with a significant margin, this first attempt to unseat her in leadership. Do you think she could survive again?

FMR. REP. DENVER RIGGLEMAN (R-VA): I think she would. I think you would have to turn 30, 40 votes there. And some people would not have to show up, because, you know, that sometimes happens, Victor. When people don't want to be part of this, they just forget to be there that day.

But, I mean, they'd have to probably turn 30 to 40 votes. So this looks like a coordinated effort from leadership to start this conversation and try to turn the tide to actually push Liz out. And I think a lot of it has to do with the 2022 midterms.

And the fact is, is that stop the steal, based on using election integrity terminology, is polling so well right now.

BLACKWELL: So, you say that this is part of an attempt to push Congresswoman Cheney out.

The last time, the minority leader spoke on her behalf to support her. You don't think that he would be in that position again, if he decides to call the vote next week?

RIGGLEMAN: I think it's difficult. If he's listening to his caucus leads, like the RSC -- I was in the RSC -- or if you're listening to the Freedom Caucus, who just had a fund-raiser down in Mar-a-Lago with President Trump -- and I don't think people really are aware of that -- is that this is the push that you're seeing, is that it's President Trump who is trying to sort of tear the party apart, or remake it, back until he needs it to be in order for him to run again in '24 and for his candidates to win.

So, really, the issue is, is that this big lie, and that is that the election was stolen, is being pushed by President Trump, because he thinks that's his way back into the White House, honestly. And when you look at a lot of the districts, Victor, their polling, again, is very, very specific towards the big lie and towards election integrity.

And the fact is, most Republicans at the grassroots levels still believe the election was illegitimate.

BLACKWELL: And let's talk about that, because a lot of Republicans, Congressman, have sloshed around in this space of President Biden has effectively -- has legally been elected, right, that he is indeed the duly elected president of the United States, but there were problems in the 2020 election that must be fixed, although there was no evidence of widespread election fraud.

The former president now is not satisfied with that. He wants them not only to buy the big lie that there was election fraud, but sell it.

RIGGLEMAN: Yes.

Well, it works here in Virginia. If you look at the gubernatorial campaign here, every single candidate has talked about election integrity commissions. And that's the sad part, Victor, is, we can't even talk about no real policies right now, because election integrity is a cover for stop the steal right now throughout the country.

And the issue with people like me is that we just don't fit in an ideological bucket. And if we don't actually check every tick off that ideological checklist, we're thrown out of the tribe.

And I'm OK being tribeless. I think Liz is having that issue right now and a lot of these individuals.

[14:10:01]

But I'm used to this. When I was younger, I got kicked out of my friend's basement because I didn't like Dungeons & Dragons. So I'm OK being without this tribe and this fantasy that the election was stolen.

But, again -- and I keep stressing this -- 2022 is looking pretty good for the GOP. And this election integrity stop the steal messaging is going to work. And I'm just having a tough time getting that across to people, that the GOP is far from dead, especially with this messaging where people think that fantasy or this good against evil messianic thing that's going on right now is what they need to for.

And a lot of that has to do with the fact that Joe Biden is believed to be illegitimate by a large portion of the Republican base.

BLACKWELL: Yes, and I was talking about this with my producer. You brought up the question of legislative argument. Republicans just wrapped up their GOP legislative retreat in Orlando. And instead of coming out coalescing around an argument, a political, a policy argument, they're arguing about the former president.

And let's put this up, because I think it's important people remember the 2020 RNC, the party platform. Instead of -- although it's a mundane document -- instead of voting on a policy platform, what they came out of the RNC was that: "The Republican Party has and will continue to enthusiastically support the president's America first agenda," essentially, whatever you like.

RIGGLEMAN: Well, this is the party of one person, not a party of policy.

And if we don't have a party, if the GOP doesn't have a message that is people over party, I think they're in big trouble way down the line, though, Victor, in the future, I'd say eight to 10 years.

But, right now, President Trump has so much sway in the party that it's still effective for these individuals to say, hey, anything President Trump says, I'm going to do that.

And here's my problem. I'm not a fan of bullies and I'm not a fan of those who are sycophants. I think that's the issue with elected individuals today is, they think that the path to riches goes through Mar-a-Lago. And I don't want to be part of that conga line down there. And I'm certain that this pilgrimage most people are taking is still based on the fact they think that the money line is where they need to be.

And this all goes back to follow the money. I have told people we could talk about fantasy and ideological craziness. We can talk about the fact that some people actually believe this, but this is a follow the money thing. And it's one of the biggest conspiratorial grifts I think we have ever seen, and it continues today.

BLACKWELL: So let's talk about leadership.

And I want to just first play what we have heard over the last four months from the House majority leader, Kevin McCarthy, and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

REP. KEVIN MCCARTHY (R-CA): President Trump won this election. So everyone who's listening, do not be quiet.

The president bears responsibility for Wednesday's attack on Congress by mob rioters.

QUESTION: Do you believe that President -- former President Trump provoked?

MCCARTHY: I don't believe he provoked, if you listened to what he said at the rally. SEN. MITCH MCCONNELL (R-KY): President Trump is practically and

morally responsible for provoking the events of the day, no question about it.

BRET BAIER, FOX NEWS: If the president was the party's nominee, would you support him?

MCCONNELL: The nominee of the party? Absolutely.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BLACKWELL: Now, if that's leadership, and you believe that there is an effort now to push Liz Cheney out of leadership, what is your degree of hope for the future of the Republican Party?

RIGGLEMAN: My degree of hope for, I guess, ideological consistency or being a party that supports the people, not individuals or polling, is a little bleak right now.

And, again, when you hear individuals talk, whether it's the leader of the Senate or the leader of the House, they're leading from the fact -- from behind on polling. They're trying to look at the polling in the districts and where the money is coming from.

And when you have Marjorie Taylor Greene raising $3.2 million, Victor, it's very difficult to push back against that, seeing where those money lines are coming from, especially grassroots fund-raising at the small donor level.

So this is all about -- and, again, I think maybe it's why I wasn't that popular in some parts of the political club, just like when I was kicked out of that Dungeons & Dragons basement, is that I just cannot stand not talking about truth and facts at this point.

And I have this ability to do that. I think some of us do. But it does mean we're facts-based pariahs. We are the radicals in the Republican Party now. And I'm happy to be that. If it's based on facts, and it's based on policy, I'm happy to be that pariah. I'm happy to be that sort of, I guess, radical or maverick that the parties need.

And that does apply to Liz. It applies to Adam and Pete and a lot of people that are screaming about this.

BLACKWELL: Yes.

Former Republican Congressman Denver Riggleman, thank you so much, sir.

RIGGLEMAN: Thank you, sir.

CAMEROTA: OK, still ahead, Victor: The COVID crisis in India is so bad that patients who are in the hospital want to get out.

BLACKWELL: And could former President Donald Trump step in to help Rudy Giuliani's court fight? One of Giuliani's legal advisers hopes that he will. New reporting, we have got it for you. Stay with us.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[14:19:19]

BLACKWELL: The COVID crisis in India right now is the worst in the world.

You have seen some of the pictures. India's new cases of the virus have passed 300,000 cases now each day for the 12th consecutive day, daily deaths breaking records on Sunday, with almost 3,700 deaths reported.

CAMEROTA: I mean, just look at those graphs on your screen right now.

India is running out of oxygen, out of hospital beds and medicine for desperate people. It's also running low on wood to cremate the dead.

Supplies are pouring in from around the world, but not fast enough for the hundreds of thousands of people struggling to breathe.

CNN's chief international correspondent, Clarissa Ward, is in New Delhi.

[14:20:01]

Clarissa, you have been there for days. You have been doing phenomenal reporting. CNN is the network that is bringing this to the world.

What have you seen on the ground? What's changing, if anything, today?

CLARISSA WARD, CNN CHIEF INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: You know, Alisyn, you hear those statistics and you know the problem is terrible, but it's only when you actually are here on the ground and spending time in some of these hospitals and hearing some of the stories of heartbreak and tragedy that you really get the full sense of just the epic size of this tragedy.

It really is unlike anything else certainly that I have covered recently. We went to visit a hospital in the neighboring state of Uttar Pradesh. It is India's most populous state, roughly 200 million people. And this government hospital was just on the brink of collapse.

There were people all over the floor desperately, desperately waiting for any form of medical attention. This hospital ward normally had 55 beds. They had 111 patients on the day that we visited. People were doubled up on beds.

And the scariest part was that, in addition to the shortage of oxygen you mentioned, the shortage of drugs you mentioned, there was also a real shortage of doctors, just five doctors trying to deal with the needs of more than 100 incredibly sick people, with only the minimal amount of resources to do it. And when you experience that firsthand on the ground, and when you see

that, and when you watch as we, sadly, did, a woman actually lose her life, and her family members desperately trying to resuscitate her, that's the moment where you realize this isn't just a statistic. This is a very real tragedy.

And there are very real questions about how this got so bad and who should be held accountable.

BLACKWELL: To that question of how it got so bad and who should be held accountable, I remember a story you brought us recently of a woman who said she was angry because of the disorganization.

What are we hearing from, from the prime minister? What are we hearing about how this will change and the effort to do that?

WARD: So, the government's announcing a number of programs designed to try to help deal with this huge crisis.

They are now getting the navy involved. They're getting the air force involved. They have launched something called Operation Oxygen Express, whereby huge amounts of liquid oxygen are being moved on India's railways across the country to the areas that need it most.

And, today, we actually heard from the Indian government, because of the shortage of doctors, that they're now enlisting the help of medical students. Final year medical students, they want to come and help out in these hospitals.

So there are a number of actions that are being taken. Of course, foreign aid is also flooding in. But the reality is, many people are saying this is probably too little, too late. And as India sort of stares down the barrel at the peak of this second wave, which is poised to hit really in the middle of this month of May, it's unclear that any of these efforts will be able to mitigate the enormous suffering that people fear will -- that will come with that peak.

CAMEROTA: And, of course, it is the feeling that the prime minister wildly mishandled this and didn't recognize the danger?

WARD: I mean, I think it depends who you talk to a little bit.

I mean, what I will say is this. Like, India's health care system has long been neglected, right? So, you can't only put that at the feet of this administration, right? This predates COVID.

But when you look at images of India's Prime Minister Narendra Modi attending election rallies in various states, with thousands of people, and none of them wearing masks, just a few weeks ago, Alisyn, and you look at images of millions and millions of pilgrims congregating to participate in the Kumbh Mela pilgrimage that was allowed to go ahead, you have to ask yourself serious questions about, how did the government get this so wrong?

How were they so cavalier about this whole crisis? They thought they'd survived and effectively defeated COVID, and they just didn't anticipate the brutality of the second save.

CAMEROTA: Clarissa Ward, again, it is so valuable to have you on the ground. Your video has been gut-wrenching and so important for the world to see.

Thank you very much for all the reporting.

BLACKWELL: So, Rudy Giuliani's legal team is hoping to pull the former president back into the fray in his legal battle against this investigation that's happening.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[14:29:37]

CAMEROTA: We have new information the investigation into Rudy Giuliani.

A legal adviser to Giuliani tells CNN that he hopes former President Donald Trump will join a court fight to try to block federal prosecutors from accessing material seized from Giuliani's home and office during raids last week.

The searches are linked to a criminal probe of Giuliani's dealings in Ukraine. Giuliani claims that whatever information was seized is protected by attorney-client privilege.